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Are you one of those people that nips out for milk, but ends up coming home with a trolley full of food? So many of us rack up the pounds by shopping spontaneously and buying things we don’t need.

Having a meal plan makes it much easier to be strict with your shop. Because you’re sticking to a pre-planned list, you’re far less likely to give into the temptation of a ‘cheap deal’.

Your list will also stop you from impulse buying. Let’s face it, if it’s something you bought without thinking about where it’ll fit into any of your meals, it’s bound to end up in the bin.

According to wrap.org.uk, household food waste is now a whopping 7.1 million tonnes! Writing down your meal planning ideas makes sure you only buy what you need and nothing goes to waste.

Making your meal plan

Take some time to come up with a detailed plan, including all the ingredients you’ll need, before you hit the shops. Here are some tips to get you started:

• Look for ways to make your favourite meals less expensive. Frozen veg is usually cheaper than fresh, and it lasts longer.

• Small packets will cost you more in the long run, so plan some crossover between your dishes. For example, if you know you need chicken for one meal, have chicken again later in the week.

• Stick dry staples like rice and pasta on your shopping list. You won’t need to buy them every week, and a 3kg bag of pasta would only set you back around £3.

Your weekly shop

A family shop for the week sticking to our meal plan, including staples like rice, pasta and milk, comes in at £27.17. That boils down to £1.81 per meal, or a little over a fiver a day.

This spend is based on a shop from Tesco, but you may find if you get your food from places like Aldi or Lidl, it could be even cheaper.

Did you know that the best time to do a food shop is actually in the evening during the week? If you visit a supermarket after 8pm, you can take advantage of the reductions on food that’s close to its sell by date.

Prepping for the week ahead

When you’re budget meal planning, your freezer is your best friend. Cook meals in batches and freeze the leftovers, so nothing’s wasted and you don’t have to cook from scratch after a tiring day.

Split your veg, meat and fish into portions. Then when you come to cook, everything’s already separated and ready to chuck in a pan or the oven.

Now you’re ready to prep tomorrow’s meals, starting with lunch. The red lentil and carrot soup on our meal plan can be batch cooked in the evening. While it’s simmering away, make the burgers and pop them in the fridge once they’re done.

Day 1

Breakfast:

Sweet potato and carrot rostis – Great if you’re time conscious in the mornings. The recipe is for 6 rostis and they can be frozen, so you’ve got plenty left over to have another day.

Cost per serving: 69p

Lunch:

Red lentil and carrot soup – A real warmer if it’s a bit miserable outside, and it’s ready and waiting thanks to the prep you did yesterday!

Cost per serving: 39p

Dinner:

Homemade burgers and chips – Minced beef is one of the cheaper meats that you can buy, and veggie mince is a similar price.

Cost per serving: £1.52

Evening prep:

Make your overnight oats so that they’re ready for you to enjoy straight out of the fridge in the morning.

Day 2

Breakfast:

Overnight oats – A simple recipe that you can change up to include your favourite fruits. Go for frozen fruit if you want to cut the cost.

Cost per serving: 12p

Lunch:

Leftover red lentil and carrot soup – No waste here, just defrost and reheat for a nutritious meal.

Cost per serving: 39p

Dinner:

Bolognese – This recipe is for a classic spag bol, but for a twist on the traditional try it with a baked potato or in a stuffed pepper.

Cost per serving: £1.88

Evening prep:

Get portions of chicken and fish out to defrost so they’re ready for tomorrow. Make more overnight oats, but try different fruit this time so it isn’t too same-y.

Day 3

Breakfast:

Overnight oats – The perfect grab and go brekkie. No cooking required!

Cost per serving: 12p

Lunch:

Leftover bolognese – Getting easy now isn’t it? Yesterday’s dinner will be just as tasty for today’s lunch.

Cost per serving: £1.88

Dinner:

Fish curry – The fish in this mouth-watering curry is loaded with vitamin D and omega-3. Tasty and good for you.

Cost per serving: £1.99

Evening prep:

Time to prepare and cook your chicken skewers ready for lunch. Get another portion of chicken out of the freezer to go with your sweet and sour sauce.

Day 4

Breakfast:

Leftover sweet potato and carrot rostis – No need to defrost, just bung it in the oven until it’s cooked through and crispy.

Cost per serving: 69p

Lunch:

Chicken skewers – Delicious served with a flatbread and some crunchy veg. For a veggie option, you could make your skewers with tofu.

Cost per serving: £1.52

Dinner:

Sweet and sour – If you prefer, swap the chicken for cauliflower or extra veg, and serve with fluffy rice.

Cost per serving: £1.68

Evening prep:

The only prep you need to do today is getting a portion of fish out of the freezer, so relax and get an early night!

Day 5

Breakfast:

Leftover sweet potato and carrot rostis – Switch up your rosti today by topping it with a poached egg and a twist of salt and pepper.

Cost per serving: 69p

Lunch:

Leftover sweet and sour – Like any good takeaway, it should taste just as yummy the next day!

Cost per serving: £1.68

Dinner:

Fish and homemade chips – Swap your usual Friday night chippy tea for this far cheaper ‘fakeaway’.

Cost per serving: £1.79

Let’s simplify budgeting

The thinkmoney Current Account is here to make budgeting for bills a breeze, so you know exactly how much you have available for the weekly shop and other spending. You pay in your income, we’ll keep money for your bills aside, and the rest is yours to spend. And you can keep track of everything on your phone using our mobile app.

Open your account today to take the stress out of budgeting.

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